After years of working in other people's kitchens, Felicia LaCalle struck out on her own in early 2018, opening Hemingway's Cuban restaurant in the Heights Public Market at Armature Works with a menu inspired by Tampa Bay's history as well as her own. A few months later, LaCalle won the International Cuban Sandwich Festival, held each year in Ybor City, the cradle of Tampa Bay's 130 years of Cuban culture. She was also earned a spot in Tampa Bay Food Fight, a friendly cross-bay competition among some of the region's best chefs.
What prompted you to start your own restaurant? I have always dreamed of having my own restaurant since I was a teenager. I decided to do Cuban since it’s an untapped cuisine that has been pushed to the side. Tampa Bay comes from a rich Cuban culture that's being brought back to life.
Who’s your hero and why? Frida Kahlo is my hero. She was a woman of confidence, a goal getter, and a carefree woman of self expression.
What do you do for fun or hobby? I love to cook and entertain at home, spend time with my boys and have adventures, travel and read.
Tell me about your job. It’s not a job to me it’s a passion, I love creating, I love bringing nostalgic memories back to life through food.
What do I love about it most? That my food brings smiles and joy when consumed!
How would life be without tourism? Bland. It’s important to enrich yourself with different cultures flavors and traditions
What’s something people don’t know about your job? That it can consume you if you let it and everything is downhill after that
What do I recommend people do when they come to Tampa Bay? Start in Ybor City. Do a tour see what it’s all about and then do the Riverwalk and take advantage of what this beautiful city has to offer.
What’s next for Hemingway’s? Most definitely expansion and growth and spreading the love of good food!